For much of the run of both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, zombies have been a low-level threat to their characters. They can best be described as a lethal nuisance and usually only pose a significant threat to the main characters in large numbers or hordes. They are slow, relatively simple to kill, and easy to outsmart. Except when characters are overrun by zombies, or cornered by them, they remain a menacing but secondary threat.
In some ways, that changed in this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “The Hurt Will Happen,” when a new breed of zombie was introduced to the series: The toxic zombie. All the hazard signs that appeared in last week’s episode were a sign of what was to come. The plane that crashed in the season premiere did so in an area near a nuclear power plant which experienced a meltdown after the apocalypse. Sixty-three people were contaminated with dangerous amounts of radiation and died. Grace, a new character played by Karen David, also worked at the power plant, and though she suffers from radiation poisoning, she has not yet died. However, she’s made it her mission before she does so to locate the 63 radiation-infected zombies and dispose of their bodies safely.
Interestingly, this storyline converges with the popularity of HBO’s Chernobyl, a dramatization of the worst nuclear meltdown in history. Here, Morgan, Alicia, and Co., are in the midst of Grace’s efforts to clean up a mess left by the Texas nuclear facility. What it means for the characters, however, is that killing a zombie can be almost as dangerous as the zombie itself. Close proximity to one of the toxic zombies can result in radiation poisoning, as Morgan discovers in this week’s episode after he kills a toxic zombie and has to take a shower and permanently give up his wooden stick (RIP wooden stick). Morgan and Co. offer to help Grace locate the other contaminated zombies after they find Grace, but after locating a good number of them who have already been reduced to bone, Grace decides to do so on her own rather than risk anyone else’s well being. Grace and Morgan, however, agree to remain in contact, should Grace find Althea or Morgan find any more contaminated zombies.